The growth mindset is a concept which is gaining popularity across the world, designed to change and improve the way in which people learn. This powerful idea has been pushed forward by best-selling author, Carol Dweck. She had been studying the differences between those that succeed and those that do not, between people that shared an equally talent. Over time, she came to find that people’s mindsets played a crucial role in future accomplishments. These mindsets are extremely important when it comes to learning and her work has uncovered two key ways of thinking about skill and development, and are referred to as fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.
What is a Fixed Mindset?
Some people have what is referred to as a fixed mindset. People with this view believe that skills and intelligence are set in stone and you either have these or do not. Those with fixed mindsets believe that some people are just naturally good at things, whilst others are not. They believe that they are not in control of their abilities beyond a certain point. People with fixed mindsets believe that people are not in control of their abilities, skills are pre-determined and everybody cannot learn and grow past a certain point.
They shy away from making effort because they don’t believe that they can change. Often, they give up when met with a challenge or when things become difficult. This is because they do not want to look bad in front of others. In their mind, challenges become threats and because they hate making mistakes, they don’t take any risks. Additionally, they don’t see the value in feedback because they don’t believe in their ability to grow.
What is a Growth Mindset?
Other people have what is referred to as a growth mindset. People with this view believe that skills and intelligence are grown and developed over time. Those with growth mindsets believe that people who are good at something are good because they worked on that ability over time. They also believe that people who do not have a certain ability are this way because they have not spent enough time working on the skill. People with growth mindsets believe that people are in control of their abilities, skills are built and everybody can learn and grow.
They see the value and purpose of effort because they believe in their capacity to grow all the time. As such, they more frequently take on challenges and persevere through these because they believe that this will help them grow. In their minds, a challenge is most frequently an opportunity to better themselves. They are more likely to understand how important mistakes are in the process of growth. When they receive feedback from other people, they are more receptive to it because they are focused on improving and the information may further their growth.
Why is a Growth Mindset Important?
The reason the growth mindset is so important is that it acts as the foundation for learning. By understanding the importance of this, no matter what direction you choose to improve your skills, your personal development will grow and become more powerful. At a basic level, we can understand that those with a fixed mindset take a negative approach to many situations and those with a growth mindset look to the positives. Everybody has a huge amount of potential in them and the growth mindset allows people to embrace everything around them and ultimately improve as a person through experience. To implement and run with this concept, we need to zoom in and look at it in further detail, so we can find out what it is and how it works.
Differences Between Both Mindsets:
Belief: Those with a growth mindset believe that skills are built over time and as such, we can learn and grow our skills.
- Growth Example: “I can’t play an instrument yet because I haven’t spent time learning how. I will spend time learning one, and will be able to learn to play one.”
- Fixed Example: “I can’t play an instrument because I’m not talented enough. Some people have that talent and others don’t. I’m just unlucky.”
Focus: Those with a growth mindset focus on the process of improvement rather than performance-based outcomes.
- Growth Example: “How can I improve my sporting technique to improve my ability? I will improve my abilities gradually and I will get better.”
- Fixed Example: “How can I win this sports match, so that I and other people believe in my abilities? If I win I am amazing, if I lose I am nothing.”
Effort: Those with a growth mindset believe effort, whilst challenging, is an important part of the learning process.
- Growth Example: “To get better than I currently am at this skill, I must spend time learning how to do things I can’t currently do, which is difficult. However, the effort will be worth it in the end and I will improve.”
- Fixed Example: “I don’t see the point in putting effort into this skill that I want to do. I can’t do the skill now so I probably won’t be able to do it after.”
Challenge – Those with a growth mindset are more likely to embrace challenges and persevere to work through them.
- Growth Example: “I can’t work out how to complete this task. However, if I keep plugging away, I will get to the solution eventually and it will be worth the reward.”
- Fixed Example: “I am completely stuck on this task and I have no idea how to do it. I might as well just give up, rather than wasting my time.”
Mistakes – Those with a growth mindset are more likely to view mistakes as a learning opportunity for the future.
- Growth Example: “Although I made a mistake, there is no point dwelling on it. I will remember what I have done wrong and try to do things differently in the future to improve.”
- Fixed Example: “I can’t believe I have made a mistake, everybody is going to think really badly of me. I won’t bother trying this again because I don’t want to look bad.”
Feedback – Those with a growth mindset are more willing to take on any form of feedback and use it to enhance their abilities.
- Growth Example: “Although that person was quite critical of my performance, some of the things they said are probably true. I will take on board their advice and use this as motivation to improve.”
- Fixed Example: “I feel really hurt that somebody commented on my abilities. I think they are deliberately targeting me and everything they said is wrong.”
Mindset Essential Reading & Products:
Summary of Mindsets:
It is very unlikely that a person will be just fixed or growth mindset-oriented, in many ways this can work as a spectrum. On different times, days and situations, people will vary between both outlooks. This often depends on how comfortable people are with the environment around them.
However, now that we understand how this works and we understand the characteristics, we can start to identify where we are on the spectrum. More specifically, we can try to get to the root of any areas where fixed mindsets may crop up. Whilst the growth mindset actions of learning are great and are behaviours that we should all want; we must understand that they come from our outlook. To create a good culture for learning, we need to progress our beliefs and focus to embrace a growth mindset.